Reimagining Public Safety
The Reimagining Public Safety Initiative (RPS) is the City of Austin’s holistic approach to assessing and evolving public safety systems to meet current and future community needs equitably and efficiently for all Austinites. RPS, which began in 2020 and continued into 2021, is grounded in the core values that everyone deserves to feel safe and have the most appropriate public safety resources to show up for them in their time of need. RPS is also focused on leveraging City resources, beyond the scope of law enforcement, to design community centered interventions to reduce harm and address the root cause of systemic inequities which often lead to crime.
Fiscal Year 2021 funding in the amount of $31.5 million advanced progress on a variety of community centered public safety strategies including 9-1-1 mental health first response, a new family violence shelter, permanent supportive housing services, and the Office of Violence Prevention.
The RPS City-Community RPS Task Force presented a comprehensive body of public safety reforms to Austin City Council. Cross-departmental RPS Review Teams, led by the Office of Police Oversight, were formed to conduct comprehensive analysis of the Task Force recommendations. In the FY22 approved budget, $9.3 million dollars will fund several RPS Task Force recommendations including:
- Increased funding of $2.8 million to the Housing Trust Fund for anti-displacement initiatives including emergency relocation assistance, the tenant stabilization program, and for projects providing affordable housing.
- Expansion of the current community health worker career ladder initiative, finalizing infrastructure development of the community health worker program, adding nine new temporary community health workers, and increasing contracts to community organizations in order to build on their community-focused public health work totaling $1.5 million.
- Matching funding for an ongoing guaranteed income pilot project that is currently being implemented through local organizations and philanthropic partners in the amount of $1.1 million.
- Enhanced funding for the Office of Violence Prevention in the amount of $1.0 million to procure the technological infrastructure to assess, monitor, and utilize violence related data to develop better informed violence intervention policies, to direct funding
The Task Force recommendations, staff analysis, and progress toward on implementation (where feasible) can be viewed on the RPS dashboard available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Arabic, Urdu, and Burmese.
Additionally, the City Council approved the City Manager’s blueprint for a reimagined Austin Police Department (APD) training academy. The blueprint outlined a collaborative and iterative process of transforming the academy and creating a core focus on community input, emphasizing servant leadership, and curriculum and teaching methods infused with diversity, equity, and inclusion. The 144th cadet class began a 34-week pilot session at the reimagined APD academy on June 7, 2021. The new academy training incorporates 30 more hours of community engagement programming, a two-week community immersion orientation program, anti-racism training, a newly designed course on the history of policing, regular physical fitness training, fewer week-long blocks of technical course content to allow for more effective implementation of adult learning strategies, and a formal process of community and civilian input into training content to ensure that issues of racial equity and procedural justice are reflected in all aspects of cadet training.
In September 2021, a state law requiring Texas cities to fund their police departments at no less than the higher amount of the two prior fiscal years took effect. In compliance with state law, the City restored full funding to the Austin Police Department budget. The City remains committed to working within the state requirements to achieve outcomes that will ensure all Austinites and visitors feel safe in our community. For change to be truly holistic and sustainable, it must be integrated into our daily activities, programs, operations, and budgets. Moving forward, reimagining public safety will not be a standalone initiative, but rather a new way to think about how we approach creating and providing a safe environment for all community members.